[Met Tour] CID:131130

Madama Butterfly
American Academy of Music, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tue, March 4, 1941

Madama Butterfly (256)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/ Giuseppe Giacosa
Licia Albanese

Armand Tokatyan

Lucielle Browning

John Brownlee

Alessio De Paolis

John Gurney

George Cehanovsky

Kate Pinkerton
Maxine Stellman

Wilfred Engelman

Gennaro Papi

Review 1:

Review of Linton Martin in the Philadelphia Inquirer

"Madama Butterfly" Sung By Metropolitan Opera

Licia Albanese Appears in Title Role in Performance at Academy

Licia Albanese, making her postponed appearance here in the title role of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," was the chief novelty of the Metropolitan Opera Association's penultimate performance of the season in the Academy last night, and with a cast in which Armand Tokatyan was suddenly substituted for the operatically indisposed Charles Kullman as the villainous hero, Lieutenant Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton.

While Miss Albanese, as a Cio-Cio-San new to this city, provided the chief interest so far as the cast was concerned, the performance itself possessed other aspects of novelty. For one thing, both Pinkerton, the U. S. naval officer, and the U. S. Consul of the occasion exclaimed "America forever" in good, round, ringing Americanese, or English, if you will, instead of in the customary Italian, in the whisky-drinking toast of the first act.


And for another, and still more exceptional thing, this little Butterfly did not confide to her future American husband that she had renounced her ancient heathen religion by becoming a good American Christian for his dear if faithless sake.

That episode was absolutely out in the first act, and for the first time so far as this city is concerned, in performances of "Madama Butterfly," though Earle R. Lewis, assistant manager of the Metropolitan, when asked why, replied that it had been omitted for the last three years because it "weakened the act musically."


If that episode "weakened the act musically," its omission certainly thickened it dramatically, since it made pointless the denunciation, a little later, of Butterfly by her uncle, the Bonze, or temple priest, for renouncing her ancient religion since it had not been established.

However, somebody concerned with the Metropolitan had an idea, and it was taken out to that extent of Miss Albanese, which was a pity, for it deleted by that much a most engaging, consistent, and wholly appealing performance.

The Butterfly of Miss Albanese is not spectacular vocally or dramatically. But it has pervasive appeal, is sung with individuality, freshness, and purity of tone, and is acted with sincerity and spontaneity.

This is a cumulative performance, which reaches its affecting, gripping climax in the suicide finale, which is presented by Miss Albanese in full view of the audience, while the child - unnamed on the program last night, but said to be Miss Albanese's - waved his little American flag, instead of being sent into the garden.


Mr. Tokatyan, one of the best known Pinkertons here in recent years, both in the summer and winter seasons, was in excellent voice last night, and again acted the part with his customary ease and authority.

The only novelty about his appearance was that the insert slip in the program announcing his substitute appearance in the part called the character "P. F. Pinkerton," which was probably the short for "Perfidious Franklin Pinkerton," instead of "Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton."


John Brownlee was sympathetic as the American Consul - has there even come to think of it, been an American Consul who hasn't been "sympathetic" in "Butterfly?" -Lucielle Browning sang Suzuki's music acceptably, while others were Alessio de Paolis as Goro, John Gurney as the Bonze, George Cehanovsky as Yamadori and Maxine Stellman as Kate Pinkerton.

Gennaro Papi conducted with such aplomb that he wasn't even upset by fireflies that blazed a brilliant blue, and always in unison, in precisely the same places, in the first act finale.

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